Wednesday, July 12, 2006
Media Time For Youngins
A remote control for a toddler?
A cell phone just for junior?
Are they serious?
On the one hand, I'm encouraged by these sorts of gadgets. I genuinely think the idea of a dedicated "kid" cell phone that has easy to use and understand buttons, with mom and dad on speed dial, is a good thing. Our television and remote control setup is so complicated that even I can't work it on some days, so having something simple with a button that automatically switches to "PBS Kids" is a great idea. At the moment, Chunk is too young for gadgets like these, but what about one year from now? Two years? Should a child of the 21st century have a cell phone and his own remote?
We limit Chunk to one hour of "media time" a day and I suspect even that is too much. That includes time in front of the TV or sitting at the computer playing with his "Dr. Seuss's ABC" program. I'll admit, there are days when I'm facing a pretty strict deadline at work that his media hour sometimes stretches to an hour and a half or two hours, but we also go a lot of days without any media time at all, just fresh air, some errand running, and plenty of games of "hide and go boo."
According to some recent reports I've read, we've already destroyed Chunk's brain with this minimal exposure and he'll be a drooling idiot by the time he's ten years old (sort of like his dad), but I believe in moderation. A little Elmo or Baby Einstein won't kill him. He thinks Elmo is hilarious and loves Thomas the Train Engine with a passion usually only reserved for first crushes and sports teams, so a little goes a long way with him. Yes, sometimes he grabs my hand, drags me to the television and signs for "more," a somewhat creepy display of how much he enjoys the television, but he is easy to redirect.
But, what happens when he can turn on the television himself? What happens when, with the push of a button, he has instant access to the shows he wants to watch? What happens when parenting gets replaced by an intelligent remote control, designed to respond to toddler needs and clumsy fingers?
Again, I think these kinds of devices are neat. I don't think there is anything wrong with modifying our world to make it friendly for smaller hands and less proficient technical skills. I'm just concerned about that new ease of use taking parents out of the process. Supervision and good decision making are the keys to good parenting. That's true of everything, but when something like a remote control gives your child the power to make decisions that aren't good for them, before they're old enough to really understand more than just the want/get cycle, suddenly the dynamics of a situation change. Suddenly, parents are taking television away from a toddler, rather than just directing them to a different task before the "idiot box" is on and streaming colored, flashing goodness into your child's brain. It's subtle, certainly, but at certain ages, the difference between giving your child something and taking something away are massive.
So, what do you think about television and toddlers? No television at all? Some? Enough that the TV is called "Uncle Boob Tube" in your house?
As an aside, I noticed that Weemote has a "senior" model for senior citizens. They tout the Sr. as being "Ideal for users with memory problems or vision impairments." I can also see how it might be useful for people with arthritis, depending on the size of the buttons. Again, a really cool idea, but the less my dad wanders in to watch TV, the better.